ArcheAge has an interesting economic system, which is what attracted me to the game the first time several years ago. It’s a system where players accrue a finite amount of labor, which is then spent in tons of subtle ways throughout the game. It takes labor to identify items, labor is required to open purses with extra money or looted boxes with random trade-goods, and of course labor is spent producing raw goods, refining them, and then converting them into usable items. Players even pay taxes on property using a direct conversion of labor to tax certificates.
End game players measure their effectiveness by comparing the in-game currency they earn to the amount of labor invested in accruing it. It’s probably one of the best and most interesting economic models I’ve seen in any game to date. There are other games that would easily make the list and are all good for various reasons, but ArcheAge is both wildly different and effective at the same time.
All good to this point, but when playing years ago, the game fell off the rails for me when land ownership came into the equation. The initial rush caused some concern, but subsequent weeks sealed my frustration and I quit the game despite a laundry list of things that I really liked about it. Land is absolutely critical to participating in the economy and if you can’t get it, participation just isn’t an option for you.
Today, the question is whether ArcheAge: Unchained is plagued by the same problems, and whether or not I’d recommend the game having gone through that initial rush. I’m addressing that in this article, and I’ll be making a few observations for the late-comers that might help make your life a little easier.
The Land Run
I was born in Texas but spent most of my early life in the Sooner State. Land runs are something I know a bit about. We enacted them every year in elementary school and grade school when I was a kid. We’d dress up in period costumes and run around the school yard amid a sparse forest of wooden stakes, each representing a “claim” with a note card telling us if our newly claimed land had oil, gas, timber, or good grazing land. Turns out, land rushes in ArcheAge are nothing like that.
I had a lot of conversations with guildmates leading up to the run. We knew it’d be competitive, but not really to what degree. When the game first came out, few really knew the value of land and so the initial rush wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. Not that it was great by a long shot even with that sorta-mitigation.
Folks aren’t even hiding their illegal farms in some cases and they still seem to survive longer than they did when I played years before.
The second time, we expected folks to have a much better idea of how important land was and where the good spots were. Being on a server that was stood up to accommodate the larger population at launch and having land release delayed a week meant that we had slightly longer to prepare for the land rush That meant people would have more time to get both 8x8 and 16x16 farms, as well as the chance to pick up a couple extra houses.
On the plus side, many folks had already started characters on the initial servers and weren’t eager to move, so we hoped there’d be a smaller population on our server. The other question was whether one of the big streamers would pick our server and which faction they’d join. Even if the total server population was low, we could be on the wrong side of streamer-induced population boom.
Turns out, the land rush felt pretty similar to the way it went the first time, though maybe with a little more “rush” in it. This time, there were people staged all around the area I’d elected to drop my own house and garden down on. While it was definitely more populated than I remember from years ago when no one really knew anything, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected.
My initial claim was in Two Crowns, and while my guildies were fighting for inches on the hill closer to the vendors, the beach was lightly populated. When the time came, I was able to get one house and my 8x8 down, but random plots around me kept me from getting my 16x16 placed or my other house. I didn’t particularly care since I really planned to put both in a different biome in any case.
Large open spaces in public farms on the Eastern continent have me a little worried about population imbalance.
The Land Meander
That initial rush made me a little concerned because the land around me was eaten up so aggressively on the day. I’ve become a little less concerned since. For one, several of the large plots around me remain undeveloped and taxes unpaid. That’s similar to how it was last time, except that I think it’s more significant now than it was back then.
Folks know how to make money now and I’ve seen more illegal farms chopped down after they’ve matured, rather than just uprooted out of spite. Lumber is still expensive in the auction house, but also seems in more plentiful supply. Since everyone knows how to make gold now, it shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone not buying seed for gardens to afford or find timber to complete their farms and houses.
I feel like I’m going to see a lot of spaces open up around me this Saturday. Also, since all these plots were dropped at the same time and will be opening at the same time, I probably won’t have to compete as hard for each one like I did years ago. Several will be opening at once, and so those looking to expand their holdings will be spread out, rather than all clustered around a single space clicking like crazy people.
Plenty of free spaces in normally heavily used public farms suggest the timber demand is abating earlier than initially expected.
I’ve also noticed that more space is available in public farms, which tells me the population has dropped off a bit and fewer people are feeling pressured to grow as much lumber as they can. I suspect that’s why so many of these plots remain unpaid and unconstructed. Last time I went through this, the public farms were packed constantly for weeks following the initial release of land to the players.
The other telling thing, I believe, is that I’m seeing large spaces of land available in other regions. Granted, temperate climate is best for the bulk of trade goods, but everyone needs goods from the other climates, too. I found several free plot-sized bits of space in Sanddeep, but the Eastern continent had even more free space available in both public farms and housing areas.
That could be troubling on two fronts. It’s good because it means there’s plenty of space to be found, but it also means that the population may have fallen below a healthy level. Additionally, I’m concerned that it suggests there is a streamer on our server and that they’ve chosen our faction. That’s going to make land tighter, though not terrible, in our faction. It also means we’re the dominant faction if true, and I’d much rather be the underdog.
The Blue Salt Brotherhood quests took me to the other continent, where there seems to be even more available housing space.
The Land Stance
In the end, it’s all sort of a wash. That’s not really a bad thing, but there’s nothing to come out of the last week that makes it easy to make a recommendation one way or the other. That’s probably always true, but there is some good information in this case that would make it easier for some folks to decide if they’re interested or not.
There is land available post-run in several areas and an increasing amount of public farm space. I haven’t seen any word yet on what that would mean as far as a server merger or how the team would go about doing such a thing. At the moment, I feel like the server population is enough to be healthy, without being totally overcrowded. That could change in the next week or two as we get a better idea of how many players left after the initial land-grab and how much available land that leaves.
I’d find the game a lot easier to recommend if there were faction population locks to help balance individual servers. As it is, I would recommend the game with a few caveats. Personally, I’m really enjoying it and feel that I’ve easily gotten my money’s worth out of it at this point. For a while, I’m going to have a blast doing trade runs and leveling up my crafting professions.
Eventually the light server population is going to impact the economy and then I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy the game as much. I also expect what I think is an unbalanced population will make PvP too one-sided on our server to really be fun in the long-term. Depending on whether they re-allow player factions or what they do with pirates, that could even out those concerns in time.
I would say that I believe the game is worth the price and I think folks who’ve been looking for a fun MMO are likely to enjoy ArcheAge: Unchained. If you’re the sort to be frustrated by server mergers or who would rather have a more open housing solution that wasn’t as competitive, you might want to stay clear, though. I happen to feel the redeeming features of the game overcome those challenges, but it’d be good for anyone coming in to know what to expect.
Let me know what your experience has been like on other servers. Mine’s not the most populated, so I’d be curious to know if the more populated servers are having land problems more in line with what I’d expected. I’m also interested to hear what the population fall off has been like since the land run. Let me know how things are going for you below and what advice you might give to anyone who’s thinking about joining the game.